When I was in the fifth grade, we moved across town to a new house with several huge apple trees in the backyard. My parents simply let them grow wild, never spraying them or cutting them back, and every fall to this day they shower the yard with hundreds of lumpy, spotted, and sometimes wormy apples, each sized somewhere between an egg and a tennis ball.
They’re not the prettiest things to look at, and you have to chomp your way through two or three before you feel like you’ve eaten anything substantial, but they make the most incredible, sweet-tart applesauce. I remember my mom coming in from outside with a plastic Stop & Shop bag filled to the ripping point. She peeled them and cut away the bad parts (sometimes half the apple), cut the good parts into chunks, and tossed them in a pot with some water, sugar, and a big pinch of cinnamon. She she let them bubble away until they were soft, and then she used a dinner fork to mash them into a chunky sauce. I would hover nearby and steal warm spoonfuls straight from the stovetop.
Alex had a very different childhood relationship with applesauce. His mother used it to hide his medicine. He thought it naturally tasted like Robitussin and crushed pills until he was a teenager.
Since we’ve been together, I’ve made it my mission to get him to reconsider applesauce. So far this warm, spicy cake has been my best argument. I make it every fall for Rosh Hashanah in place of honey cake, which I’ve never liked, and who cares because honey isn’t vegan anyway?
One of the great things about this cake is that the flavor actually improves over the course of a day or two, so if you’ve got a lot of holiday cooking to do you can easily make it ahead. It also freezes beautifully. And did I mention it miraculously transforms from “cake” at night to “bread” in the morning, making it totally acceptable breakfast fare?
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) vegan shortening, such as Earth Balance
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 cup chunky applesauce
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment. Dust the sides with flour and tap out the excess.
- In a small bowl, stir the ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Set aside for 15 minutes to thicken.
- In a large bowl, beat the shortening and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the maple syrup and flax-water mixture. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger into the bowl and beat to combine. Beat in the applesauce.
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack, then run a knife around the edges and turn the cake out. Store loosely wrapped at room temperature.